U.K. Serious Fraud Office Ends Fraud Case Against Olympus

Updated on
  • SFO announces decision to end case at court hearing in London
  • Olympus and U.K. Unit Gyrus both released from charges

The U.K. Serious Fraud Office dropped its case against Olympus Corp. two years after charging the company with making false and misleading financial statements.

A London judge Tuesday released the Japanese company and its U.K. subsidiary Gyrus Group after the SFO decided not to offer evidence. An appeals court judge ruled earlier that a company isn’t covered under legislation that created the crime of misleading auditors. A lawyer for the SFO said there was “insufficient evidence” for a realistic chance of conviction.

“The SFO could not have prosecuted individuals in this case because Japan does not extradite its nationals,” the agency said today in a statement.

Olympus was thrown into the spotlight in 2011 when then-Chief Executive Officer Michael Woodford blew the whistle on an alleged $1.7 billion accounting fraud lasting 13 years that he discovered two weeks after taking the role. Woodford referred the case to the SFO, which charged the company with making false and misleading statements to auditors between 2010 and 2011.

Reports of the attempts to hide losses in mid-October 2011 triggered an 82 percent drop in the company’s shares over the next month. Olympus was also fined 700 million yen ($5.7 million) in Japan and three executives pleaded guilty in 2013 to covering up losses at the maker of endoscopes and cameras.

A lawyer for Olympus said the company was planning to make a statement to the market in Japanese trading hours Wednesday.

(Updates with SFO comment, starting in third paragraph.)
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